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Under the Radar

Present-Day Haiti: Another Latortue-Type Era

By Max A. Joseph

It appears that corruption, un-accountability and subverting the rule of law in Haiti are to be tolerated as long as they don’t get in the way of the international community’s objectives and interests. It is obvious that the period leading to the Jan. 12, 2015 constitutional crisis that resulted in the effective dissolution of Haiti’s legislative chamber more or less resembles the pre-bicentennial era (2001-03) during which the then powerful Lavalas government was at loggerheads with practically every sector in the country. Oddly enough, for reasons that could never be rationally explained, the pre-bicentennial crisis engendered the invasion and occupation of Haiti on Feb. 29, 2004, while the Martelly government currently enjoys the unabashed support of international community. 

To make matters worse, the similarities with the illegal and authoritarian regime of Gerard Latortue (2004-06), which ruled the country without the oversight of a sitting parliament, are also unmistakable and frightening. As a result of the much delayed local and legislative elections, Martelly is now in charge of the entire administrative and political apparatus in Haiti, a disturbing reality that will inevitably subvert the upcoming vote. It is expected that disqualification and harassment of political opponents, voter suppression, ballot stuffing, and discarded ballots will be the hallmark of these elections.

Everyone surely remembers Gerard Latortue placing the Haitian National Police (PNH) under the jurisdictional control of the Minustah, an illegal and possibly treasonous act, which he later credited to not having his eyeglasses on while signing the accord at the UN headquarters in New York. Apparently neither his foreign minister nor the country’s representative to the UN had negotiated the agreement or even seen the document prior to the signing. Adding insults to injuries, his asinine remark about the eyeglasses showed that the man was not ashamed of his ineptitude or somewhat thought he was lording over a nation of idiots.

Haiti’s former prime minister Gérard Latortue

Given the fact Haitian leaders have never met an international agreement they did not like, we should brace ourselves for these Latortue-type agreements under the current arrangement. One precautionary measure would require the opposition putting Martelly on notice that every agreement negotiated by his government between Jan. 13, 2005 and the swearing in of the next elected legislature will be up for review.

We must never forget that decency and ethics are not fundamental components in international relations and that the apathy of the political class is symmetrically matched by the greediness of foreign corporations. We simply don’t want a foreigner showing up with a piece a paper that states he has exclusive ownership of the Island of La Gonâve for the next 500 years. The sooner the “untainted” draw a line in the sand the better, because the prospect of selective expropriation and mass deportation of Haitians to less desirable corners of this globe is no longer farfetched under these circumstances.

Another Latortuesque deed by the Haitian president was his formal request to the UN Security Council to extend the duration of the 2004 occupation. Ostensibly to forestall the anticipated violence in the upcoming elections, it is a harbinger of things to come. In other words Minustah-dominated Haiti is not ready to assume responsibility for a simple task of organizing free and fair election. Is Michel Martelly making use of a crystal ball or that the violence, he is assuming will happen during the electoral season, inevitable because of the Haitian people cultural affinity with anarchy?

Anyone with a minimum understanding of Haitian history knows that political violence has always been directed at the mass of people wishing to fully participate in the running of their country by those wanting to keep their monopoly on power. An autocrat by choice, Martelly is expected to stay the course because he perceives Haiti’s problems as one-dimensional, meaning the constituent state must, at all costs, protect the country’s elite against the easily manipulated, angry and vengeful masses.

Unlike Aristide, who had the overwhelming support of the masses but could never get the accolade of the elite and the international community, Martelly is somewhat tolerated by the masses and could also count on the absolute support of the international community and the elite. Having defied conventional wisdom on many levels, the man had a unique opportunity to achieve greatness but willingly chosen the discredited road of petty politics. At this stage of his presidency, he may have already reached the point of no return.

A supporter of Haiti’s former President Jean Bertrand Aristide sits on the ground holding images of him during a protest.

 

Haiti would not be where it is today, had the system of checks and balances that the Haitian Constitution mandates not compromised by the Machiavellian practices of his predecessors, which Martelly fully endorses. It is a bizarre arrangement that allows the international community to use country as a laboratory for impractical or doubtful socio-economic theories that resemble nothing currently in use in any parts of the world. This understanding which, rewards blind obedience and punishes insubordination, clarifies the different outcomes to the aforementioned similar events in Haitian history.

The notion of Haiti being a threat to international peace and security is a means to an end for an experiment whose outcome was tilted from the onset against the interests of the Haitian people. It explains why, 11 years into the unwarranted occupation of Haiti, institutionalized corruption is still tearing the fabric of Haitian society while democracy remains a concept invariably used for political control and expediency. We can either accept this ordained fate or extricate ourselves from it.

Mar. 30, 2015

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